Former Vice-President Al Gore accepts Nobel Peace Prize - sometimes thought to be "tilting at windmills" (shown above);  CAFE standards to be upheld at Weston's Lunch Box?
BRITISH STUDY; Climate change on the move - in all directions (itself, policy and others we haven't considered yet).  Protesting polar bear (l.) and one family (r.) not yet "polarized" by global warming!

ALL AROUND THE WORLD:  I-BBC on Climate Change -  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/629/629/6528979.stm



I-BBC REPORT:  SOUNDS LIKE "VERY HEAVY" IS "ACCORDING"...AS MY GRANDMOTHER USED TO SAY...

WHERE IS CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS WHEN YOU NEED HIM?
If everyone in the USA moved to San Diego, there would be a shift in the angle of the Earth's rotation..sounds like a plan!





Valdez avalanches: 'We haven't had to deal with anything quite like this before'
adn.com
By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS, ZAZ HOLLANDER and TEGAN HANLON
January 27, 2014 Updated 7 hours ago

A massive pile of avalanche debris kept the Richardson Highway closed on Monday, and officials were reluctant to offer any forecast on when the only road into Valdez would reopen.  The threat posed by a half-mile-long lake pooled behind a snow dam in Keystone Canyon and continuing avalanche danger from the slopes above make it too dangerous for crews to move in and begin cleaning up, officials said.

"There are just too many unknowns at this point," statewide maintenance engineer Mike Coffey said.

Valdez city officials have consistently said they expect the highway to be closed "for at least one week, but very possibly longer," according to city spokeswoman Sheri Pierce. The Alaska Department of Transportation had been more optimistic, saying on Sunday it could be re-opened as early as Tuesday. But a flyover Monday showed the scale of the dammed water, Coffey said, and the state said simply the road was closed "until further notice."

Valdez is prepared to ride out being cut off. Groceries have been replenished at the town supermarket. Extra flights to and from Anchorage were added. The Alaska Marine Highway System will make additional runs to Valdez, ferrying passengers to the road system via Whittier.  The situation on the Richardson Highway, involving multiple avalanches on both sides of Thompson Pass, is "extraordinary," Coffey said.

"We haven't had to deal with anything quite like this before."

BIG SLIDES

At least two giant avalanches -- one natural and one triggered by blasting -- and a half-dozen smaller ones covered parts of the Richardson Highway on Monday, according to DOT officials.  The largest slide is also the closest to Valdez, at Mile 16 of the highway in Keystone Canyon.  The avalanche debris field in the canyon is estimated to be 100 feet tall and between 1,000 feet and 1,500 feet long.

Highway officials say they've never seen an avalanche this large touch a roadway.  The other major slide is at Mile 39, toward the north end of the closure. It is estimated to be between 30-40 feet deep.  Between a half-dozen and a dozen smaller, isolated slides dot the highway closure area, between Mile 12 and Mile 64.

Most only cover a single lane of the roadway, Coffey said.

SNOW DAM

The real problem is the snow dam created by the enormous Keystone Canyon slide, and the water it is holding.  That avalanche choked off the Lowe River, which normally snakes through the narrow canyon alongside the highway.  The river is typically frozen at this time of year, officials said.

But with heavy rains and unseasonably warm weather for January, it has been moving at about a third of its normal summer flow -- when it becomes a destination for white water rafters, said Valdez DOT superintendent Robert Dunning.

Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, the snow dam flooded the valley upstream, pooling a half-mile-long lake dotted with ice and snow clumps. At its peak, that lake was rising by an inch or more an hour, Coffey said.  The backed-up water would pose a grave risk to workers downstream if there were to be a catastrophic break of the snow dam, he said.  That's unlikely, but it poses enough of a threat that workers can't be allowed in until the water drains, said Jeremy Woodrow, a state Department of Transportation spokesman.

So far, there are encouraging signs: The water appears to be receding and flowing through an old railroad tunnel and the snow pack.  A voluntary evacuation advisory for the Nordic and Alpine Wood subdivisions, about two miles from the Keystone Canyon, is still in effect Monday, said Holly Wolgamott, deputy city clerk in Valdez.

Wolgamott said she's heard that some residents have left their homes in the subdivisions to stay with friends and family or at a hotel, but no one has stayed at the shelter.  The National Weather Service issued a flash flood advisory until noon Tuesday for the area along the Richardson Highway from Keystone Canyon to Mile 5.

If sirens sound in the area under voluntary evacuation, all residents must immediately evacuate, said the Valdez statement.  When there's no risk from a surge of water, crews can get into the area to begin carting away snow, ice, and rock brought down by the avalanche, Coffey said. That work should take "days, not weeks," he said.

PIPELINE OK

The avalanches and dammed water don't appear to pose a risk to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, according to Michelle Egan, a spokeswoman for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.  The 800-mile pipeline, which starts at Prudhoe Bay and ends at the tanker terminal in Valdez, goes underground at Mile 63 of the Richardson Highway -- more than 20 miles from the closest avalanche, Egan said.  During construction in the 1970s, engineers decided to bury the pipeline to safeguard it from the risk of avalanche or rockslide in the rugged, steep terrain, she said.

The pipeline crosses the Lowe River just under a mile and more than 30 feet higher in elevation from the lake formed by a slide that dammed the river.

Alyeska officials are keeping an eye on that section and a check valve -- used to prevent the reverse flow of oil - encased in pipe about nine feet down. Egan said even if water reached the area of the valve, it wouldn't be expected to cause any hazards.  Alyeska is conducting daily helicopter surveillance flights to monitor the area, she said. "There's a significant weather event in that area so we're watching it really closely ...it's changing conditions all the time. We're glad to see the water level going down."

LOTS OF SNOW, LOTS OF RAIN

The conditions that led up to the flurry of avalanches can be summed up easily, said Valdez Avalanche Center forecaster Pete Carter: lots of snow followed by lots of rain -- nearly a foot in the hours before the road-blocking slides began on Friday.  With temperatures rising, the warming snowpack became "a quivering bowl of jelly," Carter wrote in an email Monday.  Thompson Pass has been in a state of heightened avalanche activity since Jan. 14, Carter said.

"This was a long-foreseeable event," Carter said.

On Friday, Valdez residents woke up to huge slabs of snow missing from the mountains that jut up behind town.

"Everybody woke up Friday morning and the mountains had fallen down around town," Carter said. "There was nobody who didn't realize something was going on."

The first big slides in Thompson Pass were natural, officials said.  But on Saturday DOT workers using explosives triggered a massive slide bigger than the natural one.  Triggered slides are a way of releasing snow in a controlled way, Woodrow said.

Unstable snowpack is still clinging to mountainsides in Keystone Canyon, Carter said.

KNOWN FOR SNOW

Meanwhile, the airport and port at Valdez remain open and DOT is working to reroute two additional ferries to Valdez this week to and from Whittier while the road is closed, Woodrow said.

Valdez is known for snow. Thompson Pass gets an average of 600 inches per year. During the winter of 1952, 974.1 inches of snow fell in Thompson Pass, the most ever recorded in the U.S., according to the city.

That snow can halt a major artery in the state's highway system is not hard to believe if you've ever seen an avalanche, Carter said.

From a helicopter, a huge snow slide starts with a fissure in the mountainside and transforms into something that Carter describes as looking like a "dragon" of snow: "They have those great snaking tails and are just always moving and pushing and building."




Task force: Coasts should prepare for rising seas
DAY
By DAVID B. CARUSO and MEGHAN BARR, Associated Press
Aug 19, 2013 6:57 AM EDT

NEW YORK (AP) -- A presidential task force charged with developing a strategy for rebuilding areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy has issued a report recommending 69 policy initiatives, most focused on a simple warning: Plan for future storms in an age of climate change and rising sea levels.

The report released Monday by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force says coastal communities should assume floods are going to happen more frequently and realize that spending more now on protective measures could save money later. It calls for development of a more advanced electrical grid less likely to be crippled in a crisis, and the creation of better planning tools and standards for communities rebuilding storm-damaged areas.

"Decision makers at all levels must recognize that climate change and the resulting increase in risks from extreme weather have eliminated the option of simply building back to outdated standards and expecting better outcomes after the next extreme event," the report says.

Some of the group's key recommendations are already being implemented, including the creation of new flood-protection standards for major infrastructure projects built with federal money and the promotion of a sea-level modeling tool that will help builders and engineers predict where flooding might be an issue in the future.

The task force also endorsed an ongoing competition, called "Rebuild by Design," in which 10 teams of architects and engineers from around the world are exploring ways to address vulnerabilities in coastal areas.

President Barack Obama created the task force in December. Its chairman, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, said in a statement that the group focused on finding ways to cut red tape in the delivery of disaster aid and "piloting innovative strategies that can serve as a model for communities across the nation as they prepare for the impacts of climate change."

In its report, the task force didn't delve deeply into what types of infrastructure might be best suited to protect the shoreline. It endorsed a greater use of natural barriers like wetlands and sand dunes, but said better tools were needed to help planners evaluate what works and quantify the long-term cost benefits of those types of green projects. It also said those projects should be planned regionally if they are to have their greatest effect.

It said the government should find ways to encourage the private-sector development of fuel distribution and telecommunications systems less likely to be crippled by extended power outages. After Sandy, drivers in New York and New Jersey had problems finding gas stations that still had fuel because of a series of problems that rippled through the distribution system. Mobile phone networks were snuffed out in some areas because of equipment that lacked adequate battery power, or other backup electrical supplies.

A large section of the report dealt with how federal authorities should respond once a storm has struck.

Among the recommendations:

- Federal agencies should streamline their review processes for reconstruction projects related to Sandy. It said that if standard government permitting timelines are applied, some rebuilding projects might have to undergo redundant reviews by multiple agencies and could be held up as long as four years. Some of those reviews will be consolidated to save time and money, the task force said.

- The Small Business Administration's disaster loan program, which gave $3.8 billion in low-interest loans to storm victims, performed better than it did during Hurricane Katrina but should be tweaked further. Training programs for loan officers should be improved. Eligibility for some loans should be loosened slightly. Approvals should happen faster for people who meet credit requirements. A separate application track should be established for small businesses, which often need money fast to survive but wind up languishing in long queues behind huge numbers of homeowners.

- Federal mortgage policies should be revised so homeowners can get insurance checks faster. After Sandy, many homeowners complained that mortgage banks delayed delivering their insurance payments because of bureaucratic issues.

On one vital issue related to insurance, the task force had no easy solution.  It noted that because of reforms to the financially distressed National Flood Insurance Program that began before the storm, many thousands of people who live in low-lying areas will likely see huge premium increases if they don't lift their homes up on pilings. The task force said that for many homeowners, both options will be unaffordable. It recommended further study of that dilemma.




French Carbon Tax to Yield 4 Billion Euros in 2016-PM
NYTIMES
By REUTERS
September 21, 2013

PARIS — A carbon tax to be introduced in France next year will generate 4 billion euros (3.3 billion pounds) in receipts by 2016 to help fund sweeping energy-effiency goals, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Saturday.

The measure, to be levied on all fossils fuels in proportion to the emissions they generate, would yield 2.5 billion euros in 2015, Ayrault said, outlining the impact of the tax announced by President Francois Hollande on Friday.

He did not give a figure for 2014, but said there would be no impact on households next year from road and heating fuel, in keeping with a pledge not to raise further the tax burden.

The Socialist government is attempting a delicate balancing act in satisfying demands for tougher environmental targets from its Green Party allies and resentment among households and businesses over rising taxes.

In addition to the carbon tax, the government will impose a levy on profits from France's large nuclear power network, Ayrault said, without detailing its value.

"Fossil and nuclear energy will thus be mobilised to allow us to meet our energy transition objectives," Ayrault told a conference in Paris.

The carbon tax would let France invest an extra 1 billion euros in its so-called energy transition from 2016, on top of nearly 4 billion euros already spent annually on renewable energies and 1 billion on household renovation, he said.

On Friday, President Hollande said France should aim for a 30 percent cut in fossil fuel use by 2030, setting out plans for the carbon tax from 2014 and a tax break on home insulation.

The incentives for households to carry out thermal renovation, supported by a reduced 5 percent rate of value-added tax for such work, would be worth 1.5 billion euros next year, Ayrault said in a speech closing the two-day conference on environment and energy policy.

The impact on households from the carbon tax as levied on road and heating fuel would be nil next year, Ayrault said.

For businesses, transport companies would still be exempted while industrial firms covered by carbon quotas would remain so, Ayrault said.

The carbon tax has already been earmarked to finance 3 billion euros for a tax credit already planned to improve the competitiveness of French companies, government officials added.

Elected last year pledging ambitious energy reforms, Hollande said on Friday the cut in fossil fuel use was needed to meet the country's goal of halving overall energy use by 2050.




HOLD THE MUSTARD

Outdoor (l) or indoor (r) CAFE standards - "
Corporate Average Fuel Economy"

First you have to stop using acronyms...
A Carbon Tax That America Could Live With

NYTIMES
By N. GREGORY MANKIW
August 31, 2013

THIS summer, the Obama administration released the President’s Climate Action Plan. It is a grab bag of regulations and policy initiatives aimed at reducing the nation’s carbon emissions, which many scientists believe contribute to global warming.  This got me to thinking: What might I do to reduce my own carbon emissions? Here are some things I came up with. Think of them as Greg Mankiw’s Climate Action Plan.

• I could buy a smaller, more fuel-efficient car.
• I could swap my traditional car for one with new technology, like a hybrid or an electric vehicle.
• I could car-pool to work.
• I could use public transportation.
• I could move closer to my job.
• I could buy a smaller house that requires less energy to heat and cool.
• I could adjust the thermostat to keep my home cooler in winter and warmer in summer.
• I could put solar panels on my roof.
• I could buy more energy-efficient home appliances.
• I could eat more locally produced foods, which need less fuel to transport.

I could go on, but by now you get the idea. Every day, we all make lifestyle choices that affect how much carbon is emitted. These decisions are personal but have global impact. Economists call the effects of our personal decisions on others “externalities.”

The main question is how we, as a society, ensure that we all make the right decisions, taking into account both the personal impact of our actions and the externalities. There are three approaches.

One approach is to appeal to individuals’ sense of social responsibility. This is what President Jimmy Carter did during the energy crisis of the 1970s. He encouraged Americans to adjust their thermostats and insulate their homes. I can still picture Mr. Carter sitting in the chilly White House, wearing his cardigan sweater.

It’s true that as a socially responsible economist, I always weigh the global costs and global benefits before pushing the ignition button on my car. (Yes, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek.) But expecting most people to act this way is unrealistic. Life is busy, everyone has his or her own priorities, and even knowing the global impact of one’s own actions is a daunting task.

THE second approach is to use government regulation to change the decisions that people make. An example is the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards that regulate the emissions of cars sold. The President’s Climate Action Plan is filled with small regulatory changes aimed at making Americans live more carbon-efficient lives.

Yet this regulatory approach is fraught with problems. One is that it creates an inevitable tension between the products that consumers want to buy and the products that companies are allowed to sell. Robert A. Lutz, the former General Motors executive, laments that CAFE standards are “a huge bureaucratic nightmare.” He says, “CAFE is like trying to cure obesity by requiring clothing manufacturers to make smaller sizes.”

Yet another problem with such regulations is that they can influence only a small number of crucial decisions. In a free society, the government can’t easily regulate how close I live to work, whether I car-pool with my neighbor or how often I don a cardigan. Yet if we are to reduce carbon emissions at minimum cost, we need a policy that encompasses all possible margins of adjustment.

Fortunately, a policy broader in scope is possible, which brings us to the third approach to dealing with climate externalities: putting a price on carbon emissions. If the government charged a fee for each emission of carbon, that fee would be built into the prices of products and lifestyles. When making everyday decisions, people would naturally look at the prices they face and, in effect, take into account the global impact of their choices. In economics jargon, a price on carbon would induce people to “internalize the externality.”

A bill introduced this year by Representatives Henry A. Waxman and Earl Blumenauer and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Brian Schatz does exactly that. Their proposed carbon fee — or carbon tax, if you prefer — is more effective and less invasive than the regulatory approach that the federal government has traditionally pursued.

The four sponsors are all Democrats, which raises the question of whether such legislation could ever make its way through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The crucial point is what is done with the revenue raised by the carbon fee. If it’s used to finance larger government, Republicans would have every reason to balk. But if the Democratic sponsors conceded to using the new revenue to reduce personal and corporate income tax rates, a bipartisan compromise is possible to imagine.

Among economists, the issue is largely a no-brainer. In December 2011, the IGM Forum asked a panel of 41 prominent economists about this statement: “A tax on the carbon content of fuels would be a less expensive way to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions than would a collection of policies such as ‘corporate average fuel economy’ requirements for automobiles.” Ninety percent of the panelists agreed.

Could such an overwhelming consensus of economists be wrong? Well, actually, yes. But in this case, I am confident that the economics profession has it right. The hard part is persuading the public and the politicians.








Power Is Restored Across India After Crippling Blackout

NYTIMES
By GARDINER HARRIS and JIM YARDLEY
August 1, 2012

NEW DELHI — As electric power was restored across India on Wednesday, the nation’s new power minister sought to tamp down a growing argument between state and federal ministers over who was to blame for Tuesday’s unprecedented blackout.

“I don’t think one can have a blame game between the state and the center,” said the minister, Veerappa Moily.

More than half of India’s population lost electricity on Tuesday after a cascading series of problems in three of the nation’s power grids shut down power from Imphal in the east to Jaisalmer in the west, and from Leh in the north to Bhubaneswar in the middle of the country.  The blackout affected an area encompassing about 670 million people, or roughly 10 percent of the world’s population. It trapped coal miners, stranded train passengers and caused huge traffic jams in the nation’s capital.

Mr. Moily said at a news conference on Wednesday that the power supply was restored by 3 p.m. Tuesday for emergency services like railways and airports, and that by the evening the power situation was “normal.”

“I can reassure the entire nation,” Mr. Moily said. “That kind of situation will never repeat in the national scene.”

Federal officials initially blamed the northern states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh for taking from the grid far more than their electricity allotments. Part of the reason may be that low rainfall totals have restricted the amount of power delivered by hydroelectric dams, which India relies on for much of its power needs. Another cause may be that drought-stricken farmers are using more power than expected to run water pumps to irrigate their crops.

But Ajit Sharan, the power secretary for Haryana, said that the central government is supposed to warn states if they are drawing excessive power from the system, and that did not happen on Tuesday or Monday, when another blackout affected a quarter of the nation’s population.

“This hype that states are overdrawing is the reason for the collapse is not right,” said Mr. Sharan. It is too early to say what exactly happened, he said.

When the grid collapsed, the frequency was 50.2 hertz, he said, which is normal. Had states been overdrawing, the frequency would have dropped well below that level, he added.  Whatever the cause, the scale of the blackout — the largest in human history — caused India acute embarrassment on the international stage. Indians track world opinion of them closely, not only for reasons of national pride but because foreign investments and remittances are crucial parts of the economy.

“The image of it looks very bad,” said Naresh Chandra, a former ambassador to the United States and former electricity regulator in New Delhi.

But Mr. Chandra said the problems were fixable and that international investors should not lose heart. “India is on a learning curve and hasn’t managed its technology as it should. But it will,” he said.

Power experts in the United States speculated that inattention by those manning crucial circuit breakers on India’s electrical grid may have led to the blackout.  India’s basic power problem is that the country’s rapid development has led demand to far outstrip supply. That means power officials must manage the grid by shutting down power to small sections of the country on a rotating basis. But doing so requires quick action from government officials who are often loath to shut off power to important constituencies.

Mr. Moily promised that he would ensure that the nation’s power grid had round-the-clock monitoring.

Some 300 million people in India have no access to power at all, and 300 million more have only sporadic access. Another of the nation’s basic problems is that supplies of coal, largely controlled by the government, have not been enough to meet demand even among power plants that have the capacity to generate more electricity.  Shailendra Tshwant, an environmental activist and energy consultant, said that relying on more coal and further centralizing the nation’s energy infrastructure would be a mistake.

“Decentralized renewable energy sources like wind, solar and microhydropower plants are the answers here,” Mr. Tshwant said.

Many of India’s major corporations and industrial groups generate their own power and thus were spared much of the disruption from the blackouts on Monday and Tuesday. Many apartment and office buildings in India’s major cities have their own generators as well. And as India’s power grid becomes ever more unreliable, private power alternatives will further proliferate, despite their relative inefficiency.

Tuesday’s blackout affected a broad area of India. Three of the country’s interconnected northern power grids collapsed for several hours, as blackouts extended almost 2,000 miles, from India’s eastern border with Myanmar to its western border with Pakistan.

For a country considered a rising economic power, Blackout Tuesday — which came only a day after another major power failure — was an embarrassing reminder of the intractable problems still plaguing India: inadequate infrastructure, a crippling power shortage and, many critics say, a yawning absence of governmental action and leadership.  India’s coalition government, battered for its stewardship of a wobbling economy, again found itself on the defensive, as top ministers could not definitively explain what had caused the grid failure or why it had happened on consecutive days.

Theories for the extraordinarily extensive blackout across much of northern India included excessive demands placed on the grid from certain regions, due in part to low monsoon rains that forced farmers to pump more water to their fields, and the less plausible possibility that large solar flares had set off a failure.

“This is a huge failure,” said Prakash Javadekar, a spokesman for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. “It is a management failure as well as a failure of policy. It is policy paralysis in the power sector.”

For millions of ordinary people, Tuesday brought frustration and anger; for some, there was fear. As nighttime arrived, Kirti Shrivastava, 49, a housewife in the eastern city of Patna, said power had not been restored in her neighborhood. “There is no water, no idea when electricity will return,” she said. “We are really tense. Even the shops have now closed. Now we hope it is not an invitation to the criminals!”

Tuesday also brought havoc to India’s railroad network, one of the busiest in the world. Across the country, hundreds of trains were stalled for hours before service resumed. At the bustling New Delhi Railway Station, Jaswant Kaur, 62, found herself stranded after a miserable day. Her initial train was stopped by the power failure. By the time she reached New Delhi, her connecting train was already gone.

“Now my pocket is empty,” she said. “I am hungry. I am tired. The government is responsible.”

Sushil Kumar Shinde, who was the power minister until Tuesday afternoon when he was promoted to home minister, did not specify what had caused the grid breakdown but blamed several northern states for consuming too much power from the national system.

“I have asked my officers to penalize those states which are drawing more power than their quota,” said Mr. Shinde. On Wednesday, he astonished some in India by declaring that he had been an “excellent” power minister in an interview with the NDTV news channel. “Is Sushil Kumar Shinde a staff writer at The Onion?” commented Sachin Kalbag, executive editor of the newspaper Mid Day, on Twitter.

Surendra Rao, formerly India’s top electricity regulator, said the national grid had a sophisticated system of circuit breakers that should have prevented such a blackout. But he attributed this week’s problems to the bureaucrats who control the system, saying that civil servants are beholden to elected state leaders who demand that more power be diverted to their regions — even if doing so threatens the stability of the national grid.

“The dispatchers at both the state and the regional level should have cut off the customers who were overdrawing, and they didn’t,” Mr. Rao said. “That has to be investigated.”

India’s power sector has long been considered a potentially crippling hindrance to the country’s economic prospects. Part of the problem is access; more than 300 million people in India still have no electricity.

But India’s power generation capacity also has not kept pace with growth. Demand outpaced supply by 10.2 percent in March, government statistics show.  In recent years, India’s government has set ambitious goals for expanding power generation capacity, and while new plants are now operational, many more have faced delays, whether because of bureaucratic entanglements, environmental concerns or other problems. India depends on coal for more than half of its power generation, but production has barely increased, with some power plants idled for lack of coal.

Many analysts have long predicted that India’s populist politics were creating an untenable situation in the power sector because the government is selling electricity at prices lower than the cost of generating it. India’s public distribution utilities are now in deep debt, which makes it harder to encourage investment in the power sector. Tuesday’s blackout struck some analysts as evidence of a system in distress.

“It’s like a day of reckoning coming nearer,” said Rajiv Kumar, secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

India’s major business centers of Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad were not affected by the blackout, since they are in the southern and central parts of the country, which proved to be immune from the failure.

Phillip F. Schewe, a specialist in electricity and author of the book “The Grid: A Journey Through the Heart of Our Electrified World,” said the demand pressures on India’s system could set off the sort of breakdown that occurred on Tuesday.  In cases when demand outstrips the power supply, the system of circuit breakers must be activated, often manually, to reduce some of the load in what are known as rolling blackouts. But if workers cannot trip those breakers fast enough, Mr. Schewe said, a failure could cascade into a much larger blackout.

About 200 coal miners in the state of West Bengal were stranded for several hours in underground mines when the electricity to the elevators was shut off, according to reports in the Indian news media.

“We are waiting for the restoration of power to bring them up through the lifts, but there is no threat to their lives or any reason to panic,” said Nildari Roy, an official at Eastern Coalfields Ltd., the mine’s operator. Most of the miners had been rescued by late evening, news agencies said.

Ramachandra Guha, an Indian historian, said the blackout was only the latest evidence of government dysfunction. On Monday, he noted, 32 people died in a train fire in Tamil Nadu State — a reminder that the nation’s railway system, like the electrical system, is underfinanced and in dire need of upgrading.

“India needs to stop strutting on the world stage like it’s a great power,” Mr. Guha said, “and focus on its deep problems within.”

Power Failures Hit Millions in India
NYTIMES
By HEATHER TIMMONS and SRUTHI GOTTIPATI
July 31, 2012

NEW DELHI — About 600 million people lost power in India on Tuesday when the country’s northern and eastern electricity grids failed, crippling the country for a second consecutive day.

The outage stopped hundreds of trains in their tracks, darkened traffic lights, shuttered the Delhi Metro and left nearly everyone — the police, water utilities, private businesses and citizens — without electricity. About half of India’s population of 1.2 billion people was without power. India’s unofficial power grid, a huge number of backup diesel generators and other private power sources, kept hospitals electrified and major airports running.

Manoranjan Kumar, an economic adviser with the Ministry of Power, said in a telephone interview that the grids had failed and that the ministry was working to figure out the source of the problem. The northern and eastern grids cover 11 states and the capital city of Delhi, stretching from India’s northern tip in Kashmir to Rajasthan to West Bengal’s capital of Kolkata.

The failure happened without warning just after 1 p.m., electric company officials said.

“We seem to have plunged into another power failure, and the reasons why are not at all clear,” said Gopal K. Saxena, the chief executive of BSES, an electric company that services South Delhi, in a telephone interview. It may take a long time to restore power to north India, he said, because the eastern grid has also failed, and alternate power sources in Bhutan and the Indian state of Sikkim flow into the east first.

About two hours after the grid failure, power ministry authorities said some alternate arrangements had been made. “We are taking hydro power from Bhakhra Nangal Dam,” in northern India, said Sushil Kumar Shinde, the power minister, in a televised interview.

India has struggled to generate enough power of its own to fuel businesses and light homes, and the country relies on huge imports of coal and oil to power its own plants. But supply and demand may not explain away this week’s grid failures, power executives said.

The failure on Tuesday affected roughly twice as many people as the massive power outage the previous day, when the northern power grid failed and left more than 300 million people without power for several hours. No official reason for the Monday’s failure has been given, although some local news reports pointed fingers at state governments which were overdrawing power.

That assessment is too simplistic, Mr. Saxena, of BSES, said. There are controls in place on India’s electricity grids that override an outsized power demand. “We have one of the most robust, smart grids operating” in the world, he said. It would “not be wise” to give an assessment of what happened at this time, he added.

Institutions without a private backup system were shuttered. All trains stopped in the Delhi Metro, which carries nearly 2 million passengers a day. Trains were pulled to the closest stations using battery back up, and then evacuated, a spokeswoman for the Delhi Metro said, and the stations have been locked. “We had never anticipated such a thing,” the spokeswoman said.

A trade body, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, or Assocham, said that Monday’s power problem “totally disturbed the normal life and has severely impacted the economic activities."

“While on the one hand it is a pity that over 26,000 megawatts of power stations are idle due to the nonavailability of coal, on the other one grid failure has brought the system collapsed,” said the group’s secretary general D.S. Rawat, noting that “the entire power situation at present is headed for disaster.”



Wading Into New York City’s Future

NYTIMES GREEN BLOG
By MIREYA NAVARRO
August 26, 2011, 6:06 pm

Better get used to it. More frequent and intense storms are what studies and New York City’s own panel on climate change have predicted for the city as average temperatures and sea levels rise over the next decades.

By midcentury, city officials say, New York City’s average temperature is projected to increase three to five degrees Fahrenheit and sea levels are expected to rise by more than two feet. By the end of the century, they say, New York City may feel more like North Carolina.

Hurricane Irene is a reminder of the city’s vulnerabilities, but some environmental groups say the good news is that the city is taking steps to prepare.

“We consider New York City to be one of the leaders nationally,” said Ben Chou, a water policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington. “They are already looking at how climate change is going to impact the city.”

The N.R.D.C. this month released a report summarizing water-related threats to a dozen cities around the country. Most face increased flooding and problems like shoreline erosion and saltwater intrusion into sources of drinking water. The report recommends that cities undertake full assessments of the risks now so they can start protecting their water resources and taking other necessary measures to prepare.

New York City has already convened a panel on climate change and an adaptation task force. It has also begun investing in environmental techniques to capture and retain storm water and is moving critical equipment in city buildings to higher elevations— like pump motors and circuit breakers at the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant in Queens.
--------------
August 26, 2011, 2:35 pm
Climate Change and the Texas Drought |

Scientists are always reluctant to pin any single weather event on climate change, and the Texas drought is no exception. They point to La Niña, an intermittent Pacific Ocean phenomenon that affects storms, as the immediate cause, our colleague Kate Galbraith of the Texas Tribune reports.

“We can’t say with certainty whether this particular drought is in and of itself a product of climate change,” said David Brown, a regional official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

However, Dr. Brown added, these kinds of droughts will have effects that are “even more extreme” in the future, given a warming and drying regional climate.




China has been coping with power shortages since March, because of coal supply problems and drought

Shanghai to ration electricity due to power shortage
By Chris Hogg BBC News, Shanghai
20 June 2011 Last updated at 01:58 ET


Offices and shopping malls in the Chinese city of Shanghai will be urged to close their doors on the hottest days of the year this summer.  The power rationing is necessary due to the country's shortage of electricity.

The electricity grid serving China's financial hub does not have the capacity to meet peak demand the authorities say.  China has been coping with power shortages since March, because of coal supply problems and a drought.  When the mercury in the thermometer hits 37C (98.5F) - not that unusual in summer here in Shanghai - power rationing will get under way.

Some 24,000 businesses - mainly factories and other industrial plants - will face mandatory power cuts.

But this year, in what the Chinese newspapers are describing as an unprecedented move, 3,000 non-industrial businesses - mainly shopping malls and office blocks - will be asked to close their doors too.  When power is running out, households are the priority for the authorities here.  The shops and offices will not be forced to close but they will be encouraged to do so.

So far the reaction from those likely to be affected has not been that positive.  The problem is that coal prices surged earlier in the year, making generating electricity less profitable.   About 80% of the power produced for the electricity grid in China comes from coal-fired power stations.  A drought here has also cut the amount of power available from hydro-electric facilities as water levels in reservoirs have fallen.

The heavy rain of recent days that has caused severe flooding in some parts of the country is reported to have restored water levels at some of those plants, easing the situation somewhat but not solving the problem.

It is thought likely there will be power shortages in at least 10 provinces as demand surges on the hottest days this summer.





Tweaking the climate to save it: Who decides?
YAHOO
By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent
Sun Apr 3, 8:21 am ET

CHICHELEY, England – To the quiet green solitude of an English country estate they retreated, to think the unthinkable.

Scientists of earth, sea and sky, scholars of law, politics and philosophy: In three intense days cloistered behind Chicheley Hall's old brick walls, four dozen thinkers pondered the planet's fate as it grows warmer, weighed the idea of reflecting the sun to cool the atmosphere and debated the question of who would make the decision to interfere with nature to try to save the planet.  The unknown risks of "geoengineering" — in this case, tweaking Earth's climate by dimming the skies — left many uneasy.

"If we could experiment with the atmosphere and literally play God, it's very tempting to a scientist," said Kenyan earth scientist Richard Odingo. "But I worry."

Arrayed against that worry is the worry that global warming — in 20 years? 50 years? — may abruptly upend the world we know, by melting much of Greenland into the sea, by shifting India's life-giving monsoon, by killing off marine life.  If climate engineering research isn't done now, climatologists say, the world will face grim choices in an emergency. "If we don't understand the implications and we reach a crisis point and deploy geoengineering with only a modicum of information, we really will be playing Russian roulette," said Steven Hamburg, a U.S. Environmental Defense Fund scientist.

The question's urgency has grown as nations have failed, in years of talks, to agree on a binding long-term deal to rein in their carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N.-sponsored science network, foresees temperatures rising as much as 6.4 degrees Celsius (11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, swelling the seas and disrupting the climate patterns that nurtured human civilization.

Science committees of the British Parliament and the U.S. Congress urged their governments last year to look at immediately undertaking climate engineering research — to have a "Plan B" ready, as the British panel put it, in case the diplomatic logjam persists.

Britain's national science academy, the Royal Society, subsequently organized the Chicheley Hall conference with Hamburg's EDF and the association of developing-world science academies. From six continents, they invited a blue-ribbon cross-section of atmospheric physicists, oceanographers, geochemists, environmentalists, international lawyers, psychologists, policy experts and others, to discuss how the world should oversee such unprecedented — and unsettling — research.

An Associated Press reporter was invited to sit in on their discussions, generally off the record, as they met in large and small groups in plush wood-paneled rooms, in conference halls, or outdoors among the manicured trees and formal gardens of this 300-year-old Royal Society property 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of London, a secluded spot where Britain's Special Operations Executive trained for secret missions in World War II.

Provoking and parrying each other over questions never before raised in human history, the conferees were sensitive to how the outside world might react.

"There's the `slippery slope' view that as soon as you start to do this research, you say it's OK to think about things you shouldn't be thinking about," said Steve Rayner, co-director of Oxford University's geoengineering program. Many geoengineering techniques they have thought about look either impractical or ineffective.

Painting rooftops white to reflect the sun's heat is a feeble gesture. Blanketing deserts with a reflective material is logistically challenging and a likely environmental threat. Launching giant mirrors into space orbit is exorbitantly expensive.  On the other hand, fertilizing the ocean with iron to grow CO2-eating plankton has shown some workability, and Massachusetts' prestigious Woods Hole research center is planning the biggest such experiment. Marine clouds are another route: Scientists at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado are designing a test of brightening ocean clouds with sea-salt particles to reflect the sun.

Those techniques are necessarily limited in scale, however, and unable to alter planet-wide warming. Only one idea has emerged with that potential.

"By most accounts, the leading contender is stratospheric aerosol particles," said climatologist John Shepherd of Britain's Southampton University.

The particles would be sun-reflecting sulfates spewed into the lower stratosphere from aircraft, balloons or other devices — much like the sulfur dioxide emitted by the eruption of the Philippines' Mount Pinatubo in 1991, estimated to have cooled the world by 0.5 degrees C (0.9 degrees F) for a year or so.

Engineers from the University of Bristol, England, plan to test the feasibility of feeding sulfates into the atmosphere via a kilometers-long (miles-long) hose attached to a tethered balloon.

Shepherd and others stressed that any sun-blocking "SRM" technique — for solar radiation management — would have to be accompanied by sharp reductions in carbon dioxide emissions on the ground and some form of carbon dioxide removal, preferably via a chemical-mechanical process not yet perfected, to suck the gas out of the air and neutralize it.

Otherwise, they point out, the stratospheric sulfate layer would have to be built up indefinitely, to counter the growing greenhouse effect of accumulating carbon dioxide. And if that SRM operation shut down for any reason, temperatures on Earth would shoot upward.  The technique has other downsides: The sulfates would likely damage the ozone layer shielding Earth from damaging ultraviolet rays; they don't stop atmospheric carbon dioxide from acidifying the oceans; and sudden cooling of the Earth would itself alter climate patterns in unknown ways.

"These scenarios create winners and losers," said Shepherd, lead author of a pivotal 2009 Royal Society study of geoengineering. "Who is going to decide?"

Many here worried that someone, some group, some government would decide on its own to conduct large-scale atmospheric experiments, raising global concerns — and resentment if it's the U.S. that acts, since it has done the least among industrial nations to cut greenhouse emissions. They fear some in America might push for going straight to "Plan B," rather than doing the hard work of emissions reductions.  In addition, "one of the challenges is identifying intentions, one of which could be offensive military use," said Indian development specialist Arunabha Ghosh.

Experts point out, for example, that cloud experimentation or localized solar "dimming" could — intentionally or unintentionally — cause droughts or floods in neighboring areas, arousing suspicions and international disputes.

"In some plausible but unfortunate future you could have shooting wars between your country and mine over proposals on what to do on climate change,' said the University of Michigan's Ted Parson, an environmental policy expert.

The conferees worried, too, that a "geoengineering industrial complex" might emerge, pushing to profit from deployment of its technology. And Australian economist-ethicist Clive Hamilton saw other go-it-alone threats — "cowboys" and "scientific heroes."

"I'm queasy about some billionaire with a messiah complex having a major role in geoengineering research," Hamilton said.

All discussions led to the central theme of how to oversee research.  Many environmentalists categorically oppose intentional fiddling with Earth's atmosphere, or at least insist that such important decisions rest in the hands of the U.N., since every nation on Earth has a stake in the skies above.

But at the meeting in March, Chicheley Hall experts largely assumed that a coalition of scientifically capable nations, led by the U.S. and Britain, would arise to organize "sunshade" or other engineering research, perhaps inviting China, India, Brazil and others to join in a G20-style "club" of major powers.

Then, the conferees said, an independent panel of experts would have to be formed to review the risks of proposed experiments, and give go-aheads — for research, not deployment, which would be a step awaiting fateful debates down the road.  Like Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, John Shepherd is a fellow of the venerable Royal Society, but one facing a world those scientific pioneers could not have imagined.

"I am not enthusiastic about these ideas," Shepherd told his Chicheley Hall colleagues. But like many here he felt the world has no choice but to investigate. "You would have a risk-risk calculation to make."

Some are also making a political calculation.  If research shows the stratospheric pollutants would reverse global warming, unhappy people "would realize the alternative to reducing emissions is blocking out the sun," Hamilton observed. "We might never see blue sky again."

If, on the other hand, the results are negative, or the risks too high, and global warming's impact becomes increasingly obvious, people will see "you have no Plan B," said EDF's Hamburg — no alternative to slashing use of fossil fuels.  Either way, popular support should grow for cutting emissions.  At least that's the hope. But hope wasn't the order of the day in Chicheley Hall as Shepherd wrapped up his briefing and a troubled Odingo silenced the room.

"We have a lot of thinking to do," the Kenyan told the others. "I don't know how many of us can sleep well tonight."




THREATS TO WATER SUPPLY:  DEVELOPMENT=ENGINEERED SOLUTIONS
Without engineering (left) and with engineered water supply protections (right). Sub-Sahara Africa is different from the rest of the world - its water issues worsen with engineering.  Original 1959 study of NYC water supply system - from the American Geographical Society - click here.

From "About Town" files - water supply in NYC as we know it.
Water map shows billions at risk of 'water insecurity'
By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News
29 September 2010 Last updated at 13:01 ET

About 80% of the world's population lives in areas where the fresh water supply is not secure, according to a new global analysis.  Researchers compiled a composite index of "water threats" that includes issues such as scarcity and pollution.  The most severe threat category encompasses 3.4 billion people.

Writing in the journal Nature, they say that in western countries, conserving water for people through reservoirs and dams works for people, but not nature.  They urge developing countries not to follow the same path.  Instead, they say governments should to invest in water management strategies that combine infrastructure with "natural" options such as safeguarding watersheds, wetlands and flood plains.

The analysis is a global snapshot, and the research team suggests more people are likely to encounter more severe stress on their water supply in the coming decades, as the climate changes and the human population continues to grow.  They have taken data on a variety of different threats, used models of threats where data is scarce, and used expert assessment to combine the various individual threats into a composite index.

The result is a map that plots the composite threat to human water security and to biodiversity in squares 50km by 50km (30 miles by 30 miles) across the world.

Changing pictures

"What we've done is to take a very dispassionate look at the facts on the ground - what is going on with respect to humanity's water security and what the infrastructure that's been thrown at this problem does to the natural world," said study leader Charles Vorosmarty from the City College of New York.

"What we're able to outline is a planet-wide pattern of threat, despite the trillions of dollars worth of engineering palliatives that have totally reconfigured the threat landscape."

Those "trillions of dollars" are represented by the dams, canals, aqueducts, and pipelines that have been used throughout the developed world to safeguard drinking water supplies.  Their impact on the global picture is striking.

Looking at the "raw threats" to people's water security - the "natural" picture - much of western Europe and North America appears to be under high stress.  However, when the impact of the infrastructure that distributes and conserves water is added in - the "managed" picture - most of the serious threat disappears from these regions.

Africa, however, moves in the opposite direction.

"The problem is, we know that a large proportion of the world's population cannot afford these investments," said Peter McIntyre from the University of Wisconsin, another of the researchers involved.

"In fact we show them benefiting less than a billion people, so we're already excluding a large majority of the world's population," he told BBC News.

"But even in rich parts of the world, it's not a sensible way to proceed. We could continue to build more dams and exploit deeper and deeper aquifers; but even if you can afford it, it's not a cost-effective way of doing things."

According to this analysis, and others, the way water has been managed in the west has left a significant legacy of issues for nature.  Whereas Western Europe and the US emerge from this analysis with good scores on water stress facing their citizens, wildlife there that depends on water is much less secure, it concludes.

Concrete realities

One concept advocated by development organisations nowadays is integrated water management, where the needs of all users are taken into account and where natural features are integrated with human engineering.  One widely-cited example concerns the watersheds that supply New York, in the Catskill Mountains and elsewhere around the city.  Water from these areas historically needed no filtering.

That threatened to change in the 1990s, due to agricultural pollution and other issues.  The city invested in a programme of land protection and conservation; this has maintained quality, and is calculated to have been cheaper than the alternative of building treatment works.

Mark Smith, head of the water programme at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who was not involved in the current study, said this sort of approach was beginning to take hold in the developing world, though "the concrete and steel model remains the default".

"One example is the Barotse Floodplain in Zambia, where there was a proposal for draining the wetland and developing an irrigation scheme to replace the wetlands," he related.

"Some analysis was then done that showed the economic benefits of the irrigation scheme would have been less than the benefits currently delivered by the wetland in terms of fisheries, agriculture around the flood plain, water supply, water quality and so on.

"So it's not a question of saying 'No we don't need any concrete infrastructure' - what we need are portfolios of built infrastructure and natural environment that can address the needs of development, and the ecosystem needs of people and biodiversity."
Dollars short

This analysis is likely to come in for some scrutiny, not least because it does contain an element of subjectivity in terms of how the various threats to water security are weighted and combined.
Dam in Zambia Developing countries are urged to think carefully about "concrete and steel" solutions

Nevertheless, Mark Smith hailed it as a "potentially powerful synthesis" of existing knowledge; while Gary Jones, chief executive of the eWater Co-operative Research Centre in Canberra, commented: "It's a very important and timely global analysis of the joint threats of declining water security for humans and biodiversity loss for rivers.

"This study, for the first time, brings all our knowledge together under one global model of water security and aquatic biodiversity loss."

For the team itself, it is a first attempt - a "placeholder", or baseline - and they anticipate improvements as more accurate data emerges, not least from regions such as Africa that are traditionally data-scarce.  Already, they say, it provides a powerful indicator that governments and international institutions need to take water issues more seriously.  For developed countries and the Bric group - Brazil, Russia, India and China - alone, "$800bn per year will be required by 2015 to cover investments in water infrastructure, a target likely to go unmet," they conclude.

For poorer countries, the outlook is considerably more bleak, they say.

"In reality this is a snapshot of the world about five or 10 years ago, because that's the data that's coming on line now," said Dr McIntyre.

"It's not about the future, but we would argue people should be even more worried if you start to account for climate change and population growth.

"Climate change is going to affect the amount of water that comes in as precipitation; and if you overlay that on an already stressed population, we're rolling the dice."





Sea Level Could Rise 3 Feet by 2100, Climate Panel Finds
By JUSTIN GILLIS, NYTIMES
August 19, 2013

An international team of scientists has found with near certainty that human activity is the cause of most of the temperature increases of recent decades, and warns that sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of the century if emissions continue at a runaway pace.

The scientists, whose findings are reported in a summary of the next big United Nations climate report, largely dismiss a recent slowdown in the pace of warming, which is often cited by climate change contrarians, as probably related to short-term factors. The report emphasizes that the basic facts giving rise to global alarm about future climate change are more established than ever, and it reiterates that the consequences of runaway emissions are likely to be profound.

“It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010,” the draft report says. “There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level, and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century.”

The “extremely likely” language is stronger than in the last major United Nations report, published in 2007, and it means the authors of the draft document are now 95 percent to 100 percent confident that human activity is the primary influence on planetary warming. In the 2007 report, they said they were 90 percent to 100 percent certain on that issue.

On another closely watched issue, however, the authors retreated slightly from their 2007 position.

On the question of how much the planet could warm if carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere doubled, the previous report had largely ruled out any number below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The new draft says the rise could be as low as 2.7 degrees, essentially restoring a scientific consensus that prevailed from 1979 to 2007.

Most scientists see only an outside chance that the warming will be as low as either of those numbers, with the published evidence suggesting that an increase above 5 degrees Fahrenheit is likely if carbon dioxide doubles.

The new document is not final and will not become so until an intensive, closed-door negotiating session among scientists and government leaders in Stockholm in late September. But if the past is any guide, most of the core findings of the document will survive that final review.

The document was leaked over the weekend after it was sent to a large group of people who had signed up to review it. It was first reported on in detail by the Reuters news agency, and The New York Times obtained a copy independently to verify its contents.

It was prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a large, international group of scientists appointed by the United Nations. The group does no original research, but instead periodically assesses and summarizes the published scientific literature on climate change.

“The text is likely to change in response to comments from governments received in recent weeks and will also be considered by governments and scientists at a four-day approval session at the end of September,” the panel’s spokesman, Jonathan Lynn, said in a statement Monday. “It is therefore premature and could be misleading to attempt to draw conclusions from it.”

The intergovernmental panel won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore in 2007 for seeking to educate the world’s citizens about the risks of global warming. But it has also become a political target for climate contrarians, who helped identify several minor errors in the last big report from 2007. This time, the group adopted rigorous procedures in hopes of preventing such mistakes.

On sea level, one of the biggest single worries about climate change, the new report goes well beyond the one from 2007, which largely sidestepped the question of how much the ocean could rise this century.

The new report lays out several scenarios. In the most optimistic, the world’s governments would prove far more successful at getting emissions under control than they have been in the recent past, helping to limit the total warming.

In that circumstance, sea level could be expected to rise as little as 10 inches by the end of the century, the report found. That is a bit more than the eight-inch rise in the 20th century, which proved manageable even though it caused severe erosion along the world’s shorelines.

At the other extreme, the report considers a scenario in which emissions, which have soared in recent years, continue at a runaway pace. Under those conditions, sea level could be expected to rise at least 21 inches by 2100 and might rise a bit more than three feet, the draft report said.

Hundreds of millions of people live near sea level, and either figure would represent a challenge for humanity, scientists say. But a three-foot rise in particular would endanger many of the world’s great cities — among them London, Shanghai, Venice, Sydney, Miami, New Orleans and New York.


U.N. Climate Chief Resigns
NYTIMES
By JOHN M. BRODER
February 19, 2010

WASHINGTON — Yvo de Boer, the stolid Dutch bureaucrat who led the international climate change negotiations over four tumultuous years, is resigning his post as of July 1, the United Nations said on Thursday.

In a statement announcing his departure, Mr. de Boer expressed disappointment that the December climate change conference of nearly 200 nations in Copenhagen had failed to produce an enforceable agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that climate scientists say are contributing to the warming of the planet.

He also said that governmental negotiations could provide a framework for action on climate, but that the solutions must come from the businesses that produce and consume the fuels that add to global warming.

“Copenhagen did not provide us with a clear agreement in legal terms, but the political commitment and sense of direction toward a low-emissions world are overwhelming,” said Mr. de Boer, whose formal title is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “This calls for new partnerships with the business sector, and I now have the chance to help make this happen.”

Mr. de Boer, 55, will join the consulting group KPMG as global adviser on climate and sustainability and will also work in academia, his office said.

Those who worked with Mr. de Boer were not completely surprised by his resignation. He was known to be exhausted and frustrated by the task of trying to bring together developed and developing nations with widely divergent interests to address a global problem that he believed threatened the planet’s health. But the timing was somewhat unexpected.

Mr. de Boer will be leaving his post a few months before nations meet again under United Nations auspices in Cancún, Mexico, to try to move toward an enforceable global climate treaty.

The Copenhagen conference left all the parties frustrated, and none more so than Mr. de Boer, who had traveled incessantly for four years trying to prod nations to produce a treaty by the end of 2009. In an interview with The Associated Press in Amsterdam on Thursday, he said that the high point of his tenure was the agreement in Bali at the end of 2007 under which nations agreed to a December 2009 deadline to produce a worldwide treaty on global warming.

That treaty was to have been signed at Copenhagen, which produced instead a much weaker political agreement after nearly two weeks of bitter and largely fruitless argument.

Mr. de Boer highlighted the concrete achievements of the Copenhagen meeting, a statement by the parties that global temperatures should rise no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pledges by nearly 100 nations to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

“Countries responsible for 80 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions have submitted national plans and targets to address the climate change,” he said. “This underlines their commitment to meet the challenge of climate change and work toward an agreed outcome in Cancun.”

Before joining the United Nations climate secretariat, Mr. de Boer was deputy director general of the Dutch environment ministry, vice chairman of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and an adviser to the World Bank and the Chinese government.

His successor is expected to be named in the next few months.





Read of Jane Lubchenco - click here and then again on the photo once you get there!

Allies abandon U.S. at climate confab
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
John Zaracostas

Originally published 04:45 a.m., September 15, 2009, updated 05:54 a.m., September 15, 2009

GENEVA | Western nations that spent the past several years slamming the Bush administration for not doing enough to deal with climate change were conspicuously absent from a recent global climate conference.

The Obama administration sent a large entourage to the third World Climate Conference in Geneva earlier this month, trumpeting the return of the United States to the climate change debate.

But representatives from Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Australia were nowhere to be found. The European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-member European Union, also failed to send a commissioner.

In contrast, the United States sent a 41-member delegation, led by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco, with representatives from eight agencies, the White House and Capitol Hill. They succeeded in fending off last-minute demands for Western concessions to developing nations, and their diplomatic footwork helped secure the establishment of a global framework for climate services that all nations will need if a carbon-reduction agreement is reached later this year.

But with three months to go before delegates convene in Copenhagen for a U.N.-sponsored conference to establish a path toward the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, diplomats say it is not clear whether the United States will be able to rally the support of its allies in the impending showdown with emerging nations such as China and India.  The absence of so many key European nations was disturbing to European diplomats who did show up. "EU member states are divided and unsure," said one ambassador, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Another top European envoy suggested that several countries are unwilling to make any commitments until they see what happens at the December conference.  The negotiations on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions have been threatened from the start by complex disputes between industrialized and developing nations over how to cut emissions without derailing economic growth.

The European Union proposed last week to offer up to $21.8 billion a year in aid to encourage developing countries to participate in a climate change agreement. But environmentalists blasted the offer as woefully inadequate, noting that the burden on the poorest countries will almost certainly be far higher than that.

A U.N. study has found that developing nations would need to invest $500 billion to $600 billion annually if they are to continue rapid economic development while reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that may contribute to climate change.  Fearing that a global deal is in danger, five European foreign ministers announced Thursday that they were taking a whirlwind tour of foreign capitals to raise awareness of the dangers of climate change.

"Time is now short and the need is urgent," British Foreign Minister David Miliband said at Copenhagen University.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said time is running out to reach an agreement.

"We need cooperation, not competition," he told reporters at the Geneva climate conference. "It is important to act on what science tells us."

He said serious issues need to be settled in Copenhagen. Chief among them is finding a way to provide financial and technological support to help developing countries slow the growth of their emissions, he said.

"I urge developed countries to act on more ambitious targets," Mr. Ban said.

The U.N. chief acknowledged that political will for an agreement was still lacking, but urged world leaders to overcome their differences.

Ms. Lubchenco told delegates in Geneva that President Obama "is unwavering in his commitment" to get a deal at Copenhagen. But some Europeans at the conference expressed doubt that the United States would offer anything substantial to developing nations.

About 2,000 scientists, specialists and high-level policymakers from more than 150 countries took part in the five-day Geneva conference, which ended Sept. 4.

A task force was given 12 months to set up a framework that aims "to strengthen production, availability, delivery and application of science-based climate prediction and services." Organizers said they hope to have a climate services plan fully implemented by mid-2011.




artificial treesbuildings with algae units artificial trees
Artificial trees could be used in areas where carbon emissions are high; algae units could be designed into new buildings or retrofitted to old ones; The captured carbon dioxide could be stored in empty north sea oil wells

'Artificial trees' to cut carbon
By Judith Burns
Science and environment reporter, BBC News
Page last updated at 00:33 GMT, Thursday, 27 August 2009 01:33 UK



Engineers say a forest of 100,000 "artificial trees" could be deployed within 10 to 20 years to help soak up the world's carbon emissions. The trees are among three geo-engineering ideas highlighted as practical in a new report.

The authors from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers say that without geo-engineering it will be impossible to avoid dangerous climate change. The report includes a 100-year roadmap to "decarbonise" the global economy.

No silver bullet

Launching the report, lead author Dr Tim Fox said geo-engineering should not be viewed as a "silver bullet" that could combat climate change in isolation.

He told BBC News it should be used in conjunction with efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Many climate scientists calculate that the world has only a few decades to reduce emissions before there is so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that a dangerous rise in global temperature is inevitable. The authors of this report say that geo-engineering of the type they propose should be used on a short-term basis to buy the world time, but in the long term it is vital to reduce emissions.

They define two types of geo-engineering. Nem Vaughan of University of East Anglia said: "The first category attempts to cool the planet by reflecting some of the sunlight away. The problem with this is that it just masks the problem."

"The other type of geo-engineering is to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it."

Hundreds of options

The team studied hundreds of different options but have put forward just three as being practical and feasible using current technology.

A key factor in choosing the three was that they should be low-carbon technologies rather than adding to the problem. Dr Fox told BBC News: "Artificial trees are already at the prototype stage and are very advanced in their design in terms of their automation and in the components that would be used.

"They could, within a relatively short duration, be moved forward into mass production and deployment."

The trees would work on the principle of capturing carbon dioxide from the air through a filter. The CO2 would then be removed from the filter and stored. The report calls for the technology to be developed in conjunction with carbon storage infrastructure. 

Dr Fox said the prototype artificial tree was about the same size as a shipping container and could remove thousands of times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than an equivalent sized real tree.

Another of the team's preferred methods of capturing carbon is to install what they term "algae based photobioreactors" on buildings. These would be transparent containers containing algae which would remove carbon dioxide from the air during photosynthesis.

The third option focuses on the reduction of incoming solar radiation by reflecting sunlight back into space. The report says the simplest way of doing this is for buildings to have reflective roofs.

The authors stress that all of these options will require more research and have called for the UK government to invest 10 million pounds in analysis of the effectiveness, risks and costs of geo-engineering.

Dr Fox said: "We very much believe that the practical geo-engineering that we are proposing should be implemented and could be very much part of our landscape within the next 10 to 20 years."


Climate fixes 'pose drought risk'
By Judith Burns
Science reporter, BBC News

Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 18:03 UK

Cracked reservoirArtist's impression of space sunshield. Image: SPL
Attempts to control the climate might change precipitation, say researchers.  Giant mirrors reflect solar radiation back into space 

The use of geo-engineering to slow global warming may increase the risk of drought, according to a paper in Science journal. Methods put forward include reflecting solar radiation back into space using giant mirrors or aerosol particles. But the authors warn that such attempts to control the climate could also cause major changes in precipitation.

They want the effect on rainfall to be assessed before any action is taken.

Gabriele Hegerl of the Grant Institute at University of Edinburgh and Susan Solomon of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at Boulder, Colorado, write that "if geo-engineering studies focus too heavily on warming, critical risks associated with such possible "cures" will not be evaluated appropriately".

They argue that climate change is about much more than changes in temperature. So using temperature alone to monitor the effects of geo-engineering could be dangerous.

Underestimating effects

They cite the powerful effects on rainfall of volcanic eruptions which also prevent solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface, albeit by throwing up dust rather than reflecting the radiation back into space.

For example in 1991, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo not only reduced global temperatures but also led to increases in drought. The pair correlated 20th Century weather records with data for the increase in greenhouse gases and dates for major volcanic eruptions. This revealed that greenhouse emissions tend to slightly increase rainfall in the short term but also showed that reduction in rainfall in the months following a major volcanic eruption is far more dramatic.

The authors note that current climate models tend to underestimate the effects on precipitation of both greenhouse gases and of volcanic eruptions.

The article warns that geo-engineering of this type, combined with the effects of global warming could produce reductions in regional rainfall that could rival those of past major droughts, leading to winners and losers among the human population and possible conflicts over water.

They conclude: "optimism about a geo-engineered 'easy way out' should be tempered by examination of currently observed climate changes."



CLIMATE CHANGE AS A POLITICAL FORCE

DESERTIFICATION:  Potable water a future weapon...flood is its opposite (Katrina)?  Remember this B movie?

Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security
NYTIMES
By JOHN M. BRODER

August 9, 2009


WASHINGTON — The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.

Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.

Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response.

An exercise last December at the National Defense University, an educational institute that is overseen by the military, explored the potential impact of a destructive flood in Bangladesh that sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into neighboring India, touching off religious conflict, the spread of contagious diseases and vast damage to infrastructure. “It gets real complicated real quickly,” said Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, who is working with a Pentagon group assigned to incorporate climate change into national security strategy planning.

Much of the public and political debate on global warming has focused on finding substitutes for fossil fuels, reducing emissions that contribute to greenhouse gases and furthering negotiations toward an international climate treaty — not potential security challenges.

But a growing number of policy makers say that the world’s rising temperatures, surging seas and melting glaciers are a direct threat to the national interest.

If the United States does not lead the world in reducing fossil-fuel consumption and thus emissions of global warming gases, proponents of this view say, a series of global environmental, social, political and possibly military crises loom that the nation will urgently have to address.

This argument could prove a fulcrum for debate in the Senate next month when it takes up climate and energy legislation passed in June by the House.  Lawmakers leading the debate before Congress are only now beginning to make the national security argument for approving the legislation.  Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a leading advocate for the climate legislation, said he hoped to sway Senate skeptics by pressing that issue to pass a meaningful bill.

Mr. Kerry said he did not know whether he would succeed but had spoken with 30 undecided senators on the matter.  He did not identify those senators, but the list of undecided includes many from coal and manufacturing states and from the South and Southeast, which will face the sharpest energy price increases from any carbon emissions control program.

“I’ve been making this argument for a number of years,” Mr. Kerry said, “but it has not been a focus because a lot of people had not connected the dots.” He said he had urged President Obama to make the case, too.

Mr. Kerry said the continuing conflict in southern Sudan, which has killed and displaced tens of thousands of people, is a result of drought and expansion of deserts in the north. “That is going to be repeated many times over and on a much larger scale,” he said.

The Department of Defense’s assessment of the security issue came about after prodding by Congress to include climate issues in its strategic plans — specifically, in 2008 budget authorizations by Hillary Rodham Clinton and John W. Warner, then senators. The department’s climate modeling is based on sophisticated Navy and Air Force weather programs and other government climate research programs at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Pentagon and the State Department have studied issues arising from dependence on foreign sources of energy for years but are only now considering the effects of global warming in their long-term planning documents. The Pentagon will include a climate section in the Quadrennial Defense Review, due in February; the State Department will address the issue in its new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.

“The sense that climate change poses security and geopolitical challenges is central to the thinking of the State Department and the climate office,” said Peter Ogden, chief of staff to Todd Stern, the State Department’s top climate negotiator.

Although military and intelligence planners have been aware of the challenge posed by climate changes for some years, the Obama administration has made it a central policy focus.

A changing climate presents a range of challenges for the military. Many of its critical installations are vulnerable to rising seas and storm surges. In Florida, Homestead Air Force Base was essentially destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and Hurricane Ivan badly damaged Naval Air Station Pensacola in 2004. Military planners are studying ways to protect the major naval stations in Norfolk, Va., and San Diego from climate-induced rising seas and severe storms.

Another vulnerable installation is Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian Ocean that serves as a logistics hub for American and British forces in the Middle East and sits a few feet above sea level.

Arctic melting also presents new problems for the military. The shrinking of the ice cap, which is proceeding faster than anticipated only a few years ago, opens a shipping channel that must be defended and undersea resources that are already the focus of international competition.

Ms. Dory, who has held senior Pentagon posts since the Clinton administration, said she had seen a “sea change” in the military’s thinking about climate change in the past year. “These issues now have to be included and wrestled with” in drafting national security strategy, she said.

The National Intelligence Council, which produces government-wide intelligence analyses, finished the first assessment of the national security implications of climate change just last year.

It concluded that climate change by itself would have significant geopolitical impacts around the world and would contribute to a host of problems, including poverty, environmental degradation and the weakening of national governments.  The assessment warned that the storms, droughts and food shortages that might result from a warming planet in coming decades would create numerous relief emergencies.

“The demands of these potential humanitarian responses may significantly tax U.S. military transportation and support force structures, resulting in a strained readiness posture and decreased strategic depth for combat operations,” the report said.

The intelligence community is preparing a series of reports on the impacts of climate change on individual countries like China and India, a study of alternative fuels and a look at how major power relations could be strained by a changing climate.

“We will pay for this one way or another,” Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired Marine and the former head of the Central Command, wrote recently in a report he prepared as a member of a military advisory board on energy and climate at CNA, a private group that does research for the Navy. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind.

“Or we will pay the price later in military terms,” he warned. “And that will involve human lives.”



CASE makes it case...
Energy secretary idea pushed 
DAY
By Patricia Daddona    
Published on 1/23/2009

Hartford - A state energy secretary could help Connecticut and its agencies develop clear renewable and clean energy plans and policy, according to a new study released Thursday.

The study, prepared over the past six months by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, was presented to legislative committees at the Legislative Office Building. If embraced, the study could be implemented through legislation, said Richard H. Strauss, the CASE executive director.

Link to the study

Members of the committees on Energy & Technology, Environment, Government Administration and Elections voiced a mix of skepticism and support for the proposal, with some decrying the fact that several previous attempts to focus policy-making in an energy department have failed, and others voicing suspicion over the possibility of adding another layer of bureaucracy.

Enabling legislation authorized the study and appointed CASE to conduct it through the state's Clean Energy Fund on behalf of the Renewable Energy Investment Board.

Citing a duplication of effort among state agencies and a need for more focus and clarity, Strauss said that a Connecticut Energy Office headed up by a secretary of energy could be established within, but independent of, the state Office of Policy & Management. The secretary would report directly to the governor, enable “two-way communication” and serve as what Strauss later suggested would be a “point man,” something the state is lacking now.

The energy secretary would also serve as a “guide,” with existing agencies like the state Department of Public Utility Control retaining independent regulatory authority, he said.

Also leading a new energy office would be a state energy coordinating council and a state energy stakeholders advisory group.

The Connecticut Energy Advisory Board and the Governor's Steering Committee on Climate Change would be integrated into the new council, according to Strauss. As such, the changes would not impose major costs on the state's budget or impose an extra layer of bureaucracy in state government, he said.

According to the academy, an energy secretary and office would create a “new energy leadership structure” that would address comprehensive policy across all energy sectors, from electricity and heating and cooling to transportation and climate change.

The academy studied other states' bureaucratic structures and costs and found that California spends about $400 million on energy issues, and about half of that on renewable energy. Oregon spends about $65 million, and about $12 million of that on renewable energy.

State Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, the chairperson of the energy committee, thanked the academy for “spurring us on today to get going.” She also asked the academy to break out the ratepayer costs involved in instituting a Connecticut Energy Office.

”If you really want to do this,” she said to fellow lawmakers, “we will find a way.”




“We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet...Every bit of that’s got to change"

Gore Calls for U.S. to Use Renewable Energy by 2018
NYTIMES
By DAVID STOUT
Published: July 18, 2008

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Al Gore said on Thursday that Americans must abandon fossil fuels within a decade and rely on the sun, the winds and other environmentally friendly sources of electric power, or risk losing their national security as well as their creature comforts.

“The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk,” Mr. Gore said in a speech to an energy conference here. “The future of human civilization is at stake.”

Mr. Gore called for the kind of concerted national effort that enabled Americans to walk on the moon 39 years ago this month, just eight years after President John F. Kennedy famously embraced that goal. He said the goal of producing all of the nation’s electricity from “renewable energy and truly clean, carbon-free sources” within 10 years is not some farfetched vision, although he said it would require fundamental changes in political thinking and personal expectations.

“This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative,” Mr. Gore said in remarks prepared for the conference. “It represents a challenge to all Americans, in every walk of life — to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and to every citizen.”

Although Mr. Gore has made global warming and energy conservation his signature issues, winning a Nobel Prize for his efforts, his speech on Thursday argued that the reasons for renouncing fossil fuels go far beyond concern for the climate.  In it, he cited military-intelligence studies warning of “dangerous national security implications” tied to climate change, including the possibility of “hundreds of millions of climate refugees” causing instability around the world, and said the United States is dangerously vulnerable because of its reliance on foreign oil.

Doubtless aware that his remarks would be met with skepticism, or even ridicule, in some quarters, Mr. Gore insisted in his speech that the goal of carbon-free power is not only achievable but practical, and that businesses would embrace it once they saw that it made fundamental economic sense.  Mr. Gore said the most important policy change in the transformation would be taxes on carbon dioxide production, with an accompanying reduction in payroll taxes. “We should tax what we burn, not what we earn,” his prepared remarks said.

The former vice president said in his speech that he could not recall a worse confluence of problems facing the country: higher gasoline prices, jobs being “outsourced,” the home mortgage industry in turmoil. “Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues, and now the war in Afghanistan appears to be getting worse,” he said.

By calling for new political leadership and speaking disdainfully of “defenders of the status quo,” Mr. Gore was hurling a dart at the man who defeated him for the presidency in 2000, George W. Bush. Critics of Mr. Bush say that his policies are too often colored by his background in the oil business.  A crucial shortcoming in the country’s political leadership is a failure to view interlocking problems as basically one problem that is “deeply ironic in its simplicity,” Mr. Gore said, namely “our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels.”

“We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet,” Mr. Gore said. “Every bit of that’s got to change.”

And it can change, he said, citing some scientists’ estimates that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth in 40 minutes to meet the world’s energy needs for a year, and that the winds that blow across the Midwest every day could meet the country’s daily electricity needs.  Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, immediately praised Mr. Gore’s speech. “For decades, Al Gore has challenged the skeptics in Washington on climate change and awakened the conscience of a nation to the urgency of this threat,” Mr. Obama said.

A shift away from fossil fuels would make the United States a leader instead of a sometime rebel on energy and conservation issues worldwide, Mr. Gore said. Nor, he said, would the hard work of people who toil on oil rigs and deep in the earth be for naught. “We should guarantee good jobs in the fresh air and sunshine for any coal miner displaced by impacts on the coal industry,” he said by way of example. “Every single one of them.”

“Of course, there are those who will tell us that this can’t be done,” he conceded. “But even those who reap the profits of the carbon age have to recognize the inevitability of its demise. As one OPEC oil minister observed, ‘The Stone Age didn’t end because of a shortage of stones.’ ”


Gore Calls For Urgent Action On Climate Change 
DAY
By Sarah Lyall , New York Times News Service    
Published on 12/11/2007 


Oslo, Norway — He has said it again and again, with increasing urgency, to anyone who will listen. And on Monday, former Vice President Al Gore used the occasion of his 2007 Nobel Peace Prize lecture here to tell the world in powerful, stark language: Climate change is a “real, rising, imminent and universal” threat to the future of the Earth.

Saying that “our world is spinning out of kilter” and that “the very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed,” Gore warned that “we, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency — a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here.” But, he added, “there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst — not all — of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.”

The ceremony marking the 2007 prize, given to Gore and to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, comes as representatives of the world's governments are meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali to negotiate a new international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The new treaty would replace the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.

At the ceremony in Oslo's City Hall, Gore called on the negotiators to establish a universal global cap on emissions and to ratify and enact a new treaty by the beginning of 2010, two years early. And he singled out the United States and China — the world's largest emitters of carbon dioxide — for failing to meet their obligations in mitigating emissions. They should “stop using each other's behavior as an excuse for stalemate,” he said.

In his speech, Gore said his loss in the bitter 2000 presidential election had forced him to “read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken, if not premature.” But the “unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift,” he added — the chance to focus on the environment.

The documentary about Gore's climate-awareness campaign, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Academy Award, but its conclusions were dismissed as exaggerated and alarmist by his political opponents. He has repeatedly said that while he has no plans to re-enter politics, he has not ruled out the possibility.




Firms find green in being green

CT POST
THOMAS WAGNER Associated Press
Article Last Updated: 08/17/2007 06:45:52 PM EDT

LONDON — Big business fears that the fight against climate change will cost billions are now giving way to a different view: green can be the color of money.

The United States, Europe and Japan are locked in a frantic race to cash in on the exploding business of saving the planet. London has become the center for the multibillion-dollar market in carbon emissions, attracting investors who trade CO2 allowances.

Silicon Valley is leading the way in attracting venture capital for green technologies, which shows signs of mirroring the dot-com boom — and critics say eventual bust — of the 1990s. And Japan's Toyota has sold more than a million Prius hybrid models, its cutting-edge eco-friendly car.

Like all markets, the clean energy industry faces risks.

A sustained fall in the world's steep oil prices could make investment in alternatives to fossil fuels seem less attractive.

More important, to sustain business' new attraction to clean energy, governments must maintain, or even step up, efforts to cut carbon emissions. Toward that end, a major U.N. meeting will be held in Bali, Indonesia, in December aimed at reaching a new global climate pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

But for now, the battle against global warming continues to offer investors an unusual chance to be idealistic and greedy at the same time.

"Everybody is jumping on the bandwagon," said Milo Sjardin, a senior associate at New Energy Finance, a research
house in London on the world's clean energy and carbon markets.

The City of London financial district has taken the lead in making billions from the management of CO2 emissions, one of the fastest-growing segments in financial services.

The carbon market was created after Europe signed the 1997 Kyoto agreement on curbing greenhouse gases. In 2005, European governments started capping the amounts of carbon dioxide industries could emit, while letting them buy and sell CO2 emission allowances.

The cap-and-trade system encourages factories and industries to cut emissions by giving them "pollution permits." If they produce less greenhouse gases than the total of their permits, they can sell the surplus certificates — also known as credits — to companies that find them cheaper than cutting their own emissions.

That created the fast-growing carbon markets, where certificates are bought and sold like a commodity. It also includes investments in projects that help to generate additional credits.

About $30.4 billion of allowances were traded last year, representing 1.6 billion tons of CO2, double the volume of 2005, said Point Carbon, a company of market analysts based in Norway.

New Energy Finance estimates $33.8 billion carbon credits will be needed to meet targets under the Kyoto Accord and the European Emissions-Trading Scheme by 2012.

Britain has emerged as the clear leader in carbon fund management, with 72 percent of private carbon funds and 50 percent of all carbon funds being managed out of London, New Energy Finance said.

The United States, which rejected the Kyoto agreement, has never adopted a federal system of controls for carbon-dioxide emissions, although California has binding targets to cut CO2 emissions and other states are expected to follow.

America, however, has emerged as the world leader in developing clean energy technologies.  It involves a wide range of sectors, including wind, solar, biofuels, biomass (organic material to produce power and heat), energy efficiency technology, hydrogen and fuel cells, and tidal power.

"General Electric has been a leader in the campaign to develop new clean technologies that allows one to save energy and make money at the same time," said Dr. Andrew Dlugolecki, head of Andlug Consulting, a strategic consultancy on climate change and the financial sector based in Perth, Scotland.

He said oil companies, carmakers and power generators are increasing their investments in renewables and biofuels.

Silicon Valley venture capitalists also are rushing into the business, hoping to design revolutionary technologies, drive down prices and defeat energy business giants, said Dlugolecki.

Some entrepreneurs are seeking technological and scientific innovations to produce alternatives to oil and coal, while others hope to find ways of using those fuels in cleaner and more efficient ways.  Other investors are pouring money into wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower as countries such as China and more than 20 states in America require a certain portion of energy sold to come from renewable sources.

A recent survey of investors found many of them are turning green.

Deloitte Touche's 2006 "Global Venture Capital Survey" in the Americas, the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa found that for a second year in a row respondents selected energy/environment as the sector most likely to see the highest increase in investment focus.

That also has led to a word of caution for investors.

"There's a lot of money chasing not so many ideas, so the prices are going up fast, raising some concern that this activity by venture capitalists and hedge funds could produce the next dot-com bust," said Dlugolecki. 

New Energy Finance, which tracks all investment flows in the clean energy market, said 1,250 capital and private equity funds were investing in companies involved in the market in 2006.  In that year, $4 billion in investment originated in the Americas, mostly the United States, compared to $1.6 billion for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The investment in the clean energy market also doubled from 2005 to 2006 in the Americas, while remaining about the same in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, New Energy Finance said.

However, when it comes to initial public offerings for clean energy companies in 2006, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, turned the tables, producing a total value of $4.8 billion, compared to $2 billion in the Americas, said New Energy Finance.

One reason is clean energy IPOs appear to favor London because AIM — the Alternative Investment Market submarket of the London Stock Exchange — allows smaller companies to float shares with a more flexible regulatory system than is applicable to the main market and Wall Street.




B R E A K I N G   N E W S

White House unveils climate change strategy
May 31, 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House unveiled a long-term strategy on climate change on Thursday, with plans to gather the countries that emit the most greenhouse gases and to cut tariff barriers to sharing environmental technology.
 
Coming a week before a meeting of the world's richest nations in Germany at which global warming will be a key issue, the U.S. strategy calls for consensus on long-term goals for reducing the greenhouse gases that spur global warming, but not before the end of 2008, a senior White House official said.

The official, speaking before President George W. Bush's official announcement, denied it was timed to coincide with next week's Group of Eight meeting. Bush has been under pressure from European allies to give ground on climate change.

In negotiations before the summit, Washington rejected setting targets to reduce greenhouse gases, championed by other participants.

"We're announcing now because we're ready," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The plan calls for eliminating tariff barriers within six months, freeing up the distribution of new environmentally friendly technology, the official said.

The gathering of the biggest greenhouse gas countries -- those that spew a combined 80 percent of the world's emissions -- should take place in the United States this fall, the official said.

The meeting will likely include the G8 developed countries, fast-developing China and India, and Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Mexico,  South Korea and Russia, according to the official.





Page last updated at 22:04 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Copenhagen climate summit undone by 'arrogance'
By Richard Black, Environment correspondent, BBC News

China cooling tower
Western nations failed to understand how China works, says Lord Stern

The "disappointing" outcome of December's climate summit was largely down to "arrogance" on the part of rich countries, according to Lord Stern.

The economist told BBC News that the US and EU nations had not understood well enough the concerns of poorer nations.

But, he said, the summit had led to a number of countries outlining what they were prepared to do to curb emissions.

Seventy-three countries have now signed up to the non-binding Copenhagen Accord, the summit's outcome document.

The weak nature of the document led many to condemn the summit as a failure; but Lord Stern said that view was mistaken.

"The fact of Copenhagen and the setting of the deadline two years previously at Bali did concentrate minds, and it did lead... to quite specific plans from countries that hadn't set them out before," he said.

The reality is different from half a year ago
Gro Harlem Brundtland
UN special envoy on climate change

"So this process has itself been a key part of countries stating what their intentions on emissions reductions are - countries that had not stated them before, including China and the US.

"So that was a product of the UNFCCC (UN climate convention) process that we should respect."

The former World Bank chief economist and author of the influential 2006 review into the economics of climate change was speaking to BBC News following a lecture at the London School of Economics (LSE), where he now chairs the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

During the lecture, he compared the atmosphere at the Copenhagen summit to student politics in the 1960s - "chaotic, wearing, tiring, disappointing" - and said it was one in which countries had little room for real negotiating.

However, he said, it was vital to stick with the UN process, whatever its frustrations.

Twin tracks

Having failed to agree a treaty to supplant or supplement the Kyoto Protocol, and having failed to set a timetable for agreeing such a treaty, opinions are inevitably split on how countries seeking stronger curbs on greenhouse gas emissions should move forward.

Lord Stern
It could have been much better handled by the rich countries
Lord Stern

Speaking in Brussels, Gro Harlem Brundtland - the UN's special envoy on climate change - suggested there would now be a twin-track approach, with some of the important discussions taking place outside the UNFCCC umbrella.

She also acknowledged that the talks had proved much more problematical than some governments - particularly in the EU - had anticipated.

"They got the message that it was much more complicated than [they had believed], and that they have to work with Brazil and China and others, not only in the broad framework of UN negotiations but also more directly and pragmatically," she said.

"The reality is different from half a year ago."

Lord Stern agreed that what he described as the "disappointing" outcome of the Copenhagen talks was largely down to rich nations' failure to understand developing world positions and concerns.

"[There was] less arrogance than in previous years - we have, I think, moved beyond the G8 world to the G20 world where more countries are involved - but [there was] still arrogance and it could have been much better handled by the rich countries," he said.

The EU limited its room for manoeuvre, he said, because too many of the leading political figures wanted to demonstrate that they were leading.

Brass from pockets

The most concrete part of the Copenhagen Accord is an agreement that richer countries should raise funds to help poorer nations adapt to climate impacts and "green" their economies.

Lord Stern is a member of the group set up by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to advise on how to raise $100bn (£66bn) per year by 2020 using various "innovative mechanisms" that could include taxes on international aviation and banking transactions.

But the immediate objective, he suggested, was to enact the short-term promise of providing $30bn over the period 2010-12 from the public purses of western nations.

If that money did not start to move fairly quickly, he said, that would further erode trust among developing countries.

Speaking in Brussels during a meeting with EU leaders, Mexico's environment secretary Juan Rafael Elvira endorsed the point.

"The developing world needs to see clear signals to have something in their hands at Cancun," he said.

The Mexican coastal city will host this year's UNFCCC summit.

"The developing countries want to see this money unblocked; the island nations especially are waiting for this funding," said Mr Elvira.

How and where these funds are to be disbursed has yet to be decided.


Mass migrations and war: Dire climate scenario 
DAY
By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent 
Posted on Feb 21, 3:00 PM EST

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) -- If we don't deal with climate change decisively, "what we're talking about then is extended world war," the eminent economist said.

His audience Saturday, small and elite, had been stranded here by bad weather and were talking climate. They couldn't do much about the one, but the other was squarely in their hands. And so, Lord Nicholas Stern was telling them, was the potential for mass migrations setting off mass conflict.

"Somehow we have to explain to people just how worrying that is," the British economic thinker said.

Stern, author of a major British government report detailing the cost of climate change, was one of a select group of two dozen - environment ministers, climate negotiators and experts from 16 nations - scheduled to fly to Antarctica to learn firsthand how global warming might melt its ice into the sea, raising ocean levels worldwide.

Their midnight flight was scrubbed on Friday and Saturday because of high winds on the southernmost continent, 3,000 miles from here. While waiting at their Cape Town hotel for the gusts to ease down south, chief sponsor Erik Solheim, Norway's environment minister, improvised with group exchanges over coffee and wine about the future of the planet.

"International diplomacy is all about personal relations," Solheim said. "The more people know each other, the less likely there will be misunderstandings."

Understandings will be vital in this "year of climate," as the world's nations and their negotiators count down toward a U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen in December, target date for concluding a grand new deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol - the 1997 agreement, expiring in 2012, to reduce carbon dioxide and other global-warming emissions by industrial nations.  Solheim drew together key players for the planned brief visit to Norway's Troll Research Station in East Antarctica.

Trying on polar outfits for size on Friday were China's chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua, veteran U.S. climate envoy Dan Reifsnyder, and environment ministers Hilary Benn of Britain and Carlos Minc Baumfeld of Brazil.  Later, at dinner, the heavyweights heard from smaller or poorer nations about the trials they face as warming disrupts climate, turns some regions drier, threatens food production in poor African nations.

Jose Endundo, environment minister of Congo, said he recently visited huge Lake Victoria in nearby Uganda, at 80,000 square kilometers (31,000 square miles) a vital source for the Nile River, and learned the lake level had dropped 3 meters (10 feet) in the past six years - a loss blamed in part on warmer temperatures and diminishing rains.

In the face of such threats, "the rich countries have to give us a helping hand," the African minister said.

But it was Stern, former chief World Bank economist, who on Saturday laid out a case to his stranded companions in sobering PowerPoint detail.

If the world's nations act responsibly, Stern said, they will achieve "zero-carbon" electricity production and zero-carbon road transport by 2050 - by replacing coal power plants with wind, solar or other energy sources that emit no carbon dioxide, and fossil fuel-burning vehicles with cars running on electric or other "clean" energy.

Then warming could be contained to a 2-degree-Celsius (3.4-degree-Fahrenheit) rise this century, he said.

But if negotiators falter, if emissions reductions are not made soon and deep, the severe climate shifts and sea-level rises projected by scientists would be "disastrous."

It would "transform where people can live," Stern said. "People would move on a massive scale. Hundreds of millions, probably billions of people would have to move if you talk about 4-, 5-, 6-degree increases" - 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. And that would mean extended global conflict, "because there's no way the world can handle that kind of population move in the time period in which it would take place."

Melting ice, rising seas, dwindling lakes and war - the stranded ministers had a lot to consider. But many worried, too, that the current global economic crisis will keep governments from transforming carbon-dependent economies just now. For them, Stern offered a vision of working today on energy-efficient economies that would be more "sustainable" in the future.

"The unemployed builders of Europe should be insulating all the houses of Europe," he said.

After he spoke, Norwegian organizers announced that the forecast looked good for Stern and the rest to fly south on Sunday to further ponder the future while meeting with scientists in the forbidding vastness of Antarctica.


STERN REVIEW: The Economics of Climate Change

Executive Summary

The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change presents very serious global risks, and it demands an urgent global response.  This independent Review was commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, reporting to both the Chancellor and to the Prime Minister, as a contribution to assessing the evidence and building understanding of the economics of climate change.

The Review first examines the evidence on the economic impacts of climate change itself, and explores the economics of stabilising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The second half of the Review considers the complex policy challenges involved in managing the transition to a low-carbon economy and in ensuring that
societies can adapt to the consequences of climate change that can no longer be avoided.

The Review takes an international perspective. Climate change is global in its causes and consequences, and international collective action will be critical in driving an effective, efficient and equitable response on the scale required. This response will require deeper international co-operation in many areas - most notably in creating
price signals and markets for carbon, spurring technology research, development and deployment, and promoting adaptation, particularly for developing countries.

Climate change presents a unique challenge for economics: it is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen. The economic analysis must therefore be
global, deal with long time horizons, have the economics of risk and uncertainty at centre stage, and examine the possibility of major, non-marginal change. To meet
these requirements, the Review draws on ideas and techniques from most of the important areas of economics, including many recent advances.

The benefits of strong, early action on climate change outweigh the costs

The effects of our actions now on future changes in the climate have long lead times.  What we do now can have only a limited effect on the climate over the next 40 or 50
years. On the other hand what we do in the next 10 or 20 years can have a profound effect on the climate in the second half of this century and in the next.

No-one can predict the consequences of climate change with complete certainty; but we now know enough to understand the risks. Mitigation - taking strong action to
reduce emissions - must be viewed as an investment, a cost incurred now and in the coming few decades to avoid the risks of very severe consequences in the future. If
these investments are made wisely, the costs will be manageable, and there will be a wide range of opportunities for growth and development along the way. For this to
work well, policy must promote sound market signals, overcome market failures and have equity and risk mitigation at its core. That essentially is the conceptual
framework of this Review.

The Review considers the economic costs of the impacts of climate change, and the costs and benefits of action to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs)
that cause it, in three different ways:

• Using disaggregated techniques, in other words considering the physical impacts of climate change on the economy, on human life and on the STERN REVIEW: The Economics of Climate Change environment, and examining the resource costs of different technologies and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
• Using economic models, including integrated assessment models that estimate the economic impacts of climate change, and macro-economic models that represent the costs and effects of the transition to low-carbon energy systems for the economy as a whole;
• Using comparisons of the current level and future trajectories of the ‘social cost of carbon’ (the cost of impacts associated with an additional unit of greenhouse gas emissions) with the marginal abatement cost (the costs associated with incremental reductions in units of emissions).

From all of these perspectives, the evidence gathered by the Review leads to a simple conclusion: the benefits of strong, early action considerably outweigh the costs.
The evidence shows that ignoring climate change will eventually damage economic growth. Our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of
the first half of the 20th century. And it will be difficult or impossible to reverse these changes. Tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy for the longer term, and
it can be done in a way that does not cap the aspirations for growth of rich or poor countries. The earlier effective action is taken, the less costly it will be.

At the same time, given that climate change is happening, measures to help people adapt to it are essential. And the less mitigation we do now, the greater the difficulty
of continuing to adapt in future.

***



Climate change fight 'can't wait' 
International battle ahead 

The world cannot afford to wait before tackling climate change, the UK prime minister has warned.  A report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern suggests that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20%.

But taking action now would cost just 1% of global gross domestic product, the 700-page study says.  Tony Blair said the Stern Review showed that scientific evidence of global warming was "overwhelming" and its consequences "disastrous".

International response

The review coincides with the release of new data by the United Nations showing an upward trend in emission of greenhouse gases - a development for which Sir Nicholas said that rich countries must shoulder most of the responsibility.


Graph: How new CO2 targets could curb emissions
And Chancellor Gordon Brown promised the UK would lead the international response to tackle climate change.

Environment Secretary David Miliband said the Queen's Speech would now feature a climate bill to establish an independent Carbon Committee to "work with government to reduce emissions over time and across the economy".

The report says that without action, up to 200 million people could become refugees as their homes are hit by drought or flood.

"Whilst there is much more we need to understand - both in science and economics - we know enough now to be clear about the magnitude of the risks, the timescale for action and how to act effectively," Sir Nicholas said.
 
"That's why I'm optimistic - having done this review - that we have the time and knowledge to act. But only if we act internationally, strongly and urgently."

Mr Blair said the consequences for the planet of inaction were "literally disastrous".

"This disaster is not set to happen in some science fiction future many years ahead, but in our lifetime," he said.

"Investment now will pay us back many times in the future, not just environmentally but economically as well."

"For every £1 invested now we can save £5, or possibly more, by acting now.

"We can't wait the five years it took to negotiate Kyoto - we simply don't have the time. We accept we have to go further (than Kyoto)."

Large risks

Sir Nicholas, a former chief economist of the World Bank, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Unless it's international, we will not make the reductions on the scale which will be required."
 
He went on: "What we have shown is the magnitude of these risks is very large and has to be taken into account in the kind of investments the world makes today and the consumption patterns it has."

The Stern Review forecasts that 1% of global gross domestic product (GDP) must be spent on tackling climate change immediately.  It warns that if no action is taken:


Floods from rising sea levels could displace up to 100 million people

Melting glaciers could cause water shortages for 1 in 6 of the world's population

Wildlife will be harmed; at worst up to 40% of species could become extinct

Droughts may create tens or even hundreds of millions of "climate refugees"

Clear objectives

The study is the first major contribution to the global warming debate by an economist, rather than an environmental scientist.  Mr Brown, who commissioned the report, has also recruited former US Vice-President Al Gore as an environment adviser.

Reactions to the Stern Review 

"In the 20th century our national economic ambitions were the twin objectives of achieving stable economic growth and full employment," Mr Brown said.  "Now in the 21st century our new objectives are clear, they are threefold: growth, full employment and environmental care."

He said the green challenge was also an opportunity "for new markets, for new jobs, new technologies, new exports where companies, universities and social enterprises in Britain can lead the world".

"And then there is the greatest opportunity of all, the prize of securing and safeguarding the planet for our generations to come."  Mr Brown called for a long-term framework of a worldwide carbon market that would lead to "a low-carbon global economy". Among his plans are:

Reducing European-wide emissions by 30% by 2020, and at least 60% by 2050

By 2010, having 5% of all UK vehicles running on biofuels

Creating an independent environmental authority to work with the government

Establishing trade links with Brazil, Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica to ensure sustainable forestry

Working with China on clean coal technologies

The review was welcomed by groups including the European Commission and business group the CBI.  "Provided we act with sufficient speed, we will not have to make a choice between averting climate change and promoting growth and investment," said CBI head Richard Lambert.  Pia Hansen, of the European Commission, said the report "clearly makes a case for action".

"Climate change is not a problem that Europe can afford to put into the 'too difficult' pile," she said.

"It is not an option to wait and see, and we must act now."




The proposal in full
In visual format:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/30_10_06_slides.pdf

At-a-glance: The Stern Review 

The world has to act now on climate change or face devastating economic consequences, according to a report compiled by Sir Nicholas Stern for the UK government.
Here are the key points of the review written by the former chief economist of the World Bank.

TEMPERATURE

Carbon emissions have already pushed up global temperatures by half a degree Celsius

If no action is taken on emissions, there is more than a 75% chance of global temperatures rising between two and three degrees Celsius over the next 50 years

There is a 50% chance that average global temperatures could rise by five degrees Celsius


ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Melting glaciers will increase flood risk

Crop yields will decline, particularly in Africa

Rising sea levels could leave 200 million people permanently displaced

Up to 40% of species could face extinction

There will be more examples of extreme weather patterns

ECONOMIC IMPACT

Extreme weather could reduce global gross domestic product (GDP) by up to 1%

A two to three degrees Celsius rise in temperatures could reduce global economic output by 3%

If temperatures rise by five degrees Celsius, up to 10% of global output could be lost. The poorest countries would lose more than 10% of their output

In the worst case scenario global consumption per head would fall 20%

To stabilise at manageable levels, emissions would need to stabilise in the next 20 years and fall between 1% and 3% after that. This would cost 1% of GDP

OPTIONS FOR CHANGE

Reduce consumer demand for heavily polluting goods and services

Make global energy supply more efficient

Act on non-energy emissions - preventing further deforestation would go a long way towards alleviating this source of carbon emissions

Promote cleaner energy and transport technology, with non-fossil fuels accounting for 60% of energy output by 2050


GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

Create a global market for carbon pricing

Extend the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EETS) globally, bringing in countries such as the US, India and China

Set new target for EETS to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2020 and 60% by 2050

Pass a bill to enshrine carbon reduction targets and create a new independent body to monitor progress

Create a new commission to spearhead British company investment in green technology, with the aim of creating 100,000 new jobs

Former US vice-president Al Gore will advise the government on the issue

Work with the World Bank and other financial institutions to create a $20bn fund to help poor countries adjust to climate change challenges

Work with Brazil, Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica to promote sustainable forestry and prevent deforestation

 

Funds For Energy Research Declining;  With global warming, greater need is seen
By New York Times News Service, Andrew Revkin 
Published on 10/30/2006
 
Denver — Cheers fit for a revival meeting swept a hotel ballroom as 1,800 entrepreneurs and experts watched a PowerPoint presentation of the most promising technologies for limiting global warming: solar power, wind, ethanol and other farmed fuels, energy-efficient buildings and fuel-sipping cars.

“Houston,” Charles F. Kutscher, chairman of the Solar 2006 conference, concluded in a twist on the line from Apollo 13, “we have a solution!”

Hold the applause. For all the enthusiasm about alternatives to coal and oil, the challenge of limiting emissions of carbon dioxide, which traps heat, will be immense in a world likely to add 2.5 billion people by midcentury, a host of other experts say. Moreover, most of those people will live in countries like China and India, which are just beginning to enjoy an electrified, air-conditioned mobile society.

The challenge is all the more daunting because research into energy technologies by both government and industry has not been rising, but rather falling.

In the United States, annual federal spending for all energy research and development — not just the research aimed at climate-friendly technologies — is less than half what it was a quarter-century ago. It has sunk to $3 billion a year in the current budget from an inflation-adjusted peak of $7.7 billion in 1979, according to several different studies.

President Bush has sought an increase to $4.2 billion for 2007, but that would still be a small fraction of what most climate and energy experts say would be needed.

Federal spending on medical research, by contrast, has nearly quadrupled, to $28 billion annually, since 1979. Military research has increased 260 percent, and at more than $75 billion a year is 20 times the amount spent on energy research.

Britain, for one, has sounded a loud alarm about the need for prompt action on the climate issue, including more research. A report commissioned by the government and scheduled to be released Monday paints a vivid scene of what the world could look like late this century unless substantial measures are taken to cut carbon dioxide emissions: coastal flooding and a shortage of drinking water could turn 200 million people into refugees, with poor nations suffering the most. The report, prepared by a British government economist, Nicholas Stern, calls for spending to be doubled worldwide on research into low-carbon technologies.

But internationally, government energy research trends are little different from those in the United States. Japan is the only economic power that increased research spending in recent decades, with growth focused on efficiency and solar technology, according to the International Energy Agency.

In the private sector, various studies show that energy companies have a long tradition of eschewing long-term technology quests because of the lack of short-term payoffs.

Still, more than four dozen scientists, economists, engineers and entrepreneurs interviewed by The New York Times said that unless the search for abundant non-polluting energy sources and systems becomes far more aggressive, the world will probably face dangerous warming and international strife as nations with growing energy demands compete for increasingly inadequate resources.

Most of these experts also say existing energy alternatives and improvements in energy efficiency are simply not enough.

“We cannot come close to stabilizing temperatures” unless humans, by the end of the century, stop adding more CO2 to the atmosphere than it can absorb, said W. David Montgomery of Charles River Associates, a consulting group, “and that will be an economic impossibility without a major R&D investment.”

A sustained push is needed not just to refine, test and deploy known low-carbon technologies, but also to find “energy technologies that don't have a name yet,” said James A. Edmonds, a chief scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute of the University of Maryland and the Energy Department.

At the same time, many energy experts and economists agree on another daunting point: to make any resulting “alternative” energy options the new norm will require attaching a significant cost to the carbon emissions from coal, oil and gas.

“A price incentive stirs people to look at a thousand different things,” said Henry D. Jacoby, a climate and energy expert at MIT.

For now, a carbon cap or tax is opposed by Bush, most American lawmakers and many industries. And there are scant signs of consensus on a long-term successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the first treaty obligating participating industrial countries to cut warming emissions. (The United States has not ratified the pact.)

The next round of talks on Kyoto and an underlying voluntary treaty will take place next month in Nairobi, Kenya.

Environmental campaigners, focused on promptly establishing binding limits on emissions of heat-trapping gases, have tended to play down the need for big investments seeking energy breakthroughs. At the end of “An Inconvenient Truth,” former Vice President Al Gore's documentary film on climate change, he concluded: “We already know everything we need to know to effectively address this problem.”

While applauding Gore's enthusiasm, many energy experts said this stance was counterproductive because there was no way, given global growth in energy demand, that existing technology could avert a doubling or more of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide in this century.

In recent speeches, Gore has adjusted his stance, saying that existing technology is sufficient to start on the path to a stable climate.

Other researchers say the chances of success are so low, unless something breaks the societal impasse, that any technology quest should also include work on increasing the resilience to climate extremes — through actions like developing more drought-tolerant crops — as well as last-ditch climate fixes, like testing ways to block some incoming sunlight to counter warming.

Without big reductions in emissions, the midrange projections of most scenarios envision a rise of 4 degrees or so in this century, four times the warming in the last 100 years. That could, among other effects, produce a disruptive mix of intensified flooding and withering droughts in the world's prime agricultural regions.

Slides by Great Britain study:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/30_10_06_slides.pdf

Presentation in full:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/30_10_06_exec_sum.pdf